6 January 2014

Uganda: Thousands of S. Sudanese Flee to Uganda, Officials Say

More than 12,000 South Sudanese have fled to Uganda since violence broke out in Juba in mid-December and spread around the country, Ugandan officials said Monday.

Apollo Kazungu, the Commissioner for Refugees in the office of the Ugandan Prime Minister, said most of the refugees have no friends or family in Uganda and are being relocated to settlement camps.

"There are 4,218 Sudanese in Koboko ... We have 7,498 in Adjumani ... some 829 in Kiryadongo. We have to provide them with water, food, sanitation and shelter, and we are taking them to a settlement camp in Adjuman and are working with other partners to provide assistance if they opt to go back," Kazungu said.

Authorities in the district of Gulu, in northern Uganda, said they plan to immunize the refugees against hepatitis E and polio in a bid to prevent outbreaks of the two diseases.

In a report published last month, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said at least 6,000 people living in refugee camps in South Sudan have contracted hepatitis E.

By immunizing the refugees, the Uganda authorities hope to prevent the "transfer of these infectious diseases from one person to another," Gulu district speaker Douglas Okello said.

Rukia Nakamatte, a spokesperson for Uganda's health ministry, said the government has set up a surveillance team to handle any disease outbreaks that may occur among the refugees.

The United Nations has said at least 1,000 people have been killed in the violence in South Sudan, which began when renegade soldiers attacked the headquarters of the army in Juba on Dec. 15.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said the violence was triggered by a coup bid, orchestrated by former Vice President Riek Machar, a claim Machar has denied.

Within days, the violence had spread around the country and taken on ethnic overtones, with reports of people being singled out and killed because they were members of Kiir's Dinka ethnic group, or ethnic Nuer like Machar.

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